Boeing 787 #1 Retired

Boeing 787 N787BA

Seattle – On December 1st Boeing officially retired its first-built 787 aircraft, flying it to Palmdale California for long term storage. It was built in 2009 at a total cost (improvements included) of over $4 billion. This plane represented a completely new era of aircraft design for Boeing so its likely that N787BA, or ZA001 as it is known internally, will end up as a museum display. For now though, N787BA will sit engineless with its windows covered in the California desert.

Boeing 787 N787BA

Boeing 787 at Airventure

This 787 was Boeing’s test aircraft until this year when a second unit was built, incorporating all the improvements added to ZA001. It will be used at the company facility in Charleston, South Carolina where a second assembly line is being built. A third test aircraft has been built and is being used on a worldwide marketing tour. After certification the first actual production model went into service in the fall of 2011 with Japan’s All Nippon Airways. Now that certification has been achieved and newer test planes are available there is little use for ZA001.
I had the opportunity to photograph and tour the plane when it visited EAA Airventure in July 2011. As a test aircraft it is not outfitted with a cabin but rather racks of computers and test equipment (the probe hanging off the top of the tail in these photos is another air sensor) to record millions of parameters of data on the aircraft’s performance. What sets this plane apart from all others is the fact that it is made of mostly carbon-fiber composite material with highly computerized controls. It is also Boeing’s most powerful and longest range (8,200 nautical miles) jetliner thanks to its new generation Rolls-Royce engines. The one thing that people will notice first about the 787 is the large sweep of the wings and the massive engines – both larger than any other aircraft flying today.

Boeing 787 N787BA

Boeing 787 ZA001 lifting off at Airventure

Although its mission may be over, when ZA001 first flew in December 2009 it ushered in a new era for the company and for commercial aviation. Someday it will rightfully take its place at Boeing’s Museum of Flight next to other aircraft that changed commercial aviation such as the first 747, 737, and 727.

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        Since all six planes are neeedd to complete the flight tests, will they be finished in sequential order or do some have more tasks to perform than the others…or inversely, some have less tasks? If ANA has been promised planes by Feb 2010, it leaves nine months (gestation period) to finish five additional planes and get them flying and completing their tasks.

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